Hollywood Head Count

The 2010 decennial census kicks off in March, and counting the nation's 300-plus million people is no small task. To get America excited about filling out its 10-question forms, the Census Bureau this winter launched a $133 million advertising campaign with a series of commercials directed by Christopher Guest, the mind behind film parodies such as Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

The spots star Ed Begley Jr. as Payton Schlewitt, an ambitious film director determined to capture every man, woman and child in his blockbuster, Snapshot of America. Other Guest regulars, including Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Balaban and Rachael Harris, also make appearances. One ad aired during February's Super Bowl, but received poor ratings in USA Today's annual Super Bowl ad survey. The first ad, which premiered during January's Golden Globe Awards, was over three minutes and mentioned the 2010 census only at the end of the spot.

To promote the Schlewitt persona, Census has created a YouTube channel and Facebook fan page with information about his education, hobbies and favorite books. The campaign, which allocates half its resources to TV time, also includes informational and anecdotal materials in 28 languages.

The bureau plans to mail forms to households in March, and Census Day is April 1.

-Emily Long

Counting Calories

Still struggling to shed those post-holiday pounds? Ditch the sodium- laden frozen lunches and head to the Agriculture Department's South Building cafeteria. USDA is encouraging employees and visitors to make smarter eating choices with its Your Health Your Way campaign, a wellness program designed by Sodexo Inc., the facility's caterer. All the meals have fewer than 600 calories, less than 800 milligrams of sodium and 100 milligrams of cholesterol, and contain at least 3 grams of fiber. Famished feds can choose from a rotating menu that includes sushi, oven-fried chicken and brown rice, and lentil fritters. For the less calorie-conscious, greasy spoon options still are available. After all, the slogan is your health your way.

-Emily Long

The menu in the South Building changes weekly, but recent fare included:

Roasted vegetables and goat cheese on a multigrain roll: 340 cal./$5.99

Carrot coriander soup: 130 cal./$2.29

Grilled tuna with avocado salsa, cabbage slaw and toasted orzo: 390 cal./$6.99

Baked And Wired

It's always been a given when developing information technology systems: "Bake the security in" at the start as you cook the applications for better results and to save money, technologists have argued.

But that could be changing.

A White House interagency task force reported in December 2009 that federal officials should standardize terminology and procedures, and gradually phase in information security against unauthorized access and release. In the January issue of The Public Manager, technology industry executives wrote: "The traditional model of developing policy by crossing t's and dotting i's, followed by scaled pilot programs, is less of a priority.

Speed to market is now the main driver. Policy, regulatory and even security concerns are running second-often they are struggling just to catch up."

This hard right turn from conventional practices can make the by-the-book federal workforce uneasy. "The pretty risk-averse culture of government is largely uncomfortable with the risky nature of shoot first, or no later than second, and aim a bit later," says Daniel Mintz, chief technology officer of the civil and health services group at Computer Sciences Corp. and one of the authors of the Public Manager article. "It will take lots of top cover from senior management and the identification of those who are willing to take a step or two off the cliff before knowing whether they are the coyote or the roadrunner."

-Allan Holmes

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